Monday, 3 August 2009

Days of Pain and Wonder

It's been erratic here these past few days. I'm still adjusting to the divorce, and living here on my own is like some kind of retreat: it's throwing the kind of things with which I have to deal into very sharp focus. If this sounds like therapy-speak, apologies. But next time someone tells you that they're enjoying being alone, because it gives them time to get in touch with themselves and who they really are? Punch them in the face and send them my compliments.

Because it isn't fun at all. I can't speak for all of us but personally, spending time on my own and getting to know myself better is the most goddam depressing thing on earth. One of the many great things about being married, it seems to me, is that suddenly you slot into a position in which your selfhood is defined in relation to someone else. You don't have to work out who you are, because you're x's husband, y's wife, z's secret gay mistress. And this is much less demanding. The other person becomes an anchor, a fixed point around which you construct your persona.

When you lose that anchor, you go into freefall (if no-one minds me mixing metaphors ridiculously for a moment). Suddenly there is no-one to define yourself in relation to: you have to define yourself in relation to, well, yourself. And also, weirdly, everyone else. You have to look at all the other shambling, farting monkeys in the street and say, hell, where do I fit in among all this? Which cage do I have in this zoo? Am I a babboon or an orangutan? Am I a fucking snake?

The idea of going back to the trenches of the tawdry, low-grade state of civil war that passes for sexual relationships in this monkey house doesn't exactly fill me with excitement. Mainly because I've seen the other troops on my side of the lines. I mean, have you looked at men lately? Have you listened to the bastards talk? Have you seen what passes for social interaction amongst 'em? The constant bloody blokiness of it all. Save me, O Blessed Virgin, from ever becoming the kind of man who winks at people and calls them all 'mate.'

It's at times like this when I wish I was a lesbian. Admittedly I possibly have a ludicrously idealized view of the sapphic lifestyle, but for me the chief advantage would be the ability to still date women but not to wind up being associated with the kind of club-brained moron who genuinely thinks he's a modern-day Casanova because he's sprayed some Lynx on underneath his regulation Ben Sherman oxford shirt.

And what's most annoying is that this is the version of manhood which is most widely touted in the culture. It seems these days that if you're not listening to landfill indie, following the football, drinking carling, watching reruns of Top Gear on Dave, and tugging one off over the Girls Aloud calendar, you may as well sign up for the hormone treatments and select your pre-op wardrobe. Why? Why isn't there more of a space for less obvious kinds of masculinity? I mean I don't begrudge the Clarkson-wannabes having some space, I just wish they hadn't colonised almost every inch of the man-territories, leaving those of us who don't buy into the whole package trapped in a tiny metaphorical village like some weird genderqueer version of Asterix.

So, yeah, these are the thoughts which have been carroming around my head of late. On the other hand, though, it's not all bad news. After four years of beating myself against the byzantine bureaucracy that is the world of the mature student, after endless writing of reports, interview transcripts, essays and pages and pages and pages of bloody bloody references, I have at last finished my postgrad psychology diploma. I can do science, me.

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